Gun Violence is a Feminist Issue
It has been a mournful but all too familiar week in America after multiple mass shootings left nearly 20 people dead. In 2021 alone, the United States has experienced 156 mass shootings, which the Gun Violence Archive defines as an incident that leaves four or more people injured or killed. Gun violence is a distinctly American problem, and one that disproportionately affects women. Women are at the center of two intersecting public health crises: gun violence and domestic violence. Consider the data:
- According to Everytown for Gun Safety, every month, 53 women on average are shot and killed by an intimate partner.
- Access to a gun makes it five times more likely that the abusive partner will kill his female victim. Nearly half of all women killed in the U.S. are murdered by a current or former intimate partner.
- 4.5 million women have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at.
- Many mass shooters have histories of domestic violence.
- More than half of mass shootings involve the death of an intimate partner or family member.
Women of color are at even greater risk. Black women are twice as likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner compared to white women. But those who survive this trauma are left with deep physical and emotional scars and, too often, a misplaced sense of shame. It’s women like Tamira Hopkins who endured five years of a physically abusive relationship, which ended after her boyfriend shot her five times in the face, back, and chest before turning the gun on himself. Hopkins lost her hearing in one ear and is unable to use half of her face. She was initially too ashamed to ask for help, an automatic response developed from the abuse that began when she was just 16 years old.
Hopkins not only survived a near-fatal shooting, but she also lived through what domestic violence experts call “intimate terrorism,” a pattern of behavior that demands total control over every aspect of a partner’s life, and uses violence to instill fear and reinforce control.
Stories like Hopkins’ are becoming increasingly more common because COVID-19 has exasperated the crisis. Police departments across the country are reporting double-digit increases in domestic violence calls during the pandemic. Alarmingly, gun sales surged in 2020, with Americans buying 17 million firearms by October – more than any other full year.
More guns put more women in harm’s way, which is why gun control reform is a feminist issue. Any legislation meant to protect women must prevent abusers and violent people from obtaining a firearm. Congress must pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act with its proposed gun restrictions fully intact – anything less renders it almost useless. NOW’s work reducing gun violence, ending violence against women and our other core issues don’t stop at passing reforms. Together with our network of activists like you, we must continue to fight to change the culture that enables gun and domestic violence to flourish.
Thank you for all you do to help us in this vital work.